When it comes to baking, I'm no Buddy Valastro.
That's not to say all my cakes are disasters, but I definitely have baked a few softballs in my time (and by softball I mean literally, you could play softball with the cake).
Often it's the need to be precise and follow directions that often elude me, as I'm much more of a "throw what you have in the bowl and let's see what comes out" type of baker. However, I have a new appreciation for the science behind baking as well as the way it brings families together after speaking with Valastro, star of "Cake Boss" on TLC and the author of Cake Boss: The Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia (Free Press, 2010).
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Valastro about his career and baking philosophy as well as ways the home baker can become his or her own cake boss. Be sure to visit www.pioneerlocal/mommy to see some of Valastro's recipes and tips firsthand.? Making Ganache
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Unlike many culinary pros, Valastro does not frown upon pre-packaged mixes and canned frosting. Not everyone has the time, energy or know-how to bake everything from scratch, so Valastro recommends buying what you need to get started in the kitchen. Chances are you'll begin to perfect your technique over time, which will help build confidence, making you more prepared to try more complex recipes in the future. But in the meantime, follow the Cake Boss' advice and just get in there and do it!
Valastro recommends that you bring your kids into the kitchen as much as possible as the kitchen is often the place where memories are made. For the Cake Boss, the smell of meatballs reminds him of being a child and preparing dinner with his Nonna, whereas for me, the smell of burnt cookies often elicits warm memories of baking with my mom.
That's not to say you should go out and burn your cookies, but you'd be surprised how many happy memories you can make when you bake with your kids.
When it comes to decorating cakes, Valastro recommends experimenting with fondant, which he claims is easier to use than buttercream frosting. I find fondant is especially fun for little ones as its consistency is somewhat similar to play dough. Best of all, you can use natural food dyes and cookie cutters to transform fondant into a variety of shapes, sizes and characters.
According to Valastro, humor is one of the best tools any chef can have. No matter your skill level, things don't always go as planned in the kitchen. However, as long as you are having fun, even the most lopsided cake will turn out all right. "Even if it doesn't look good," the Cake Boss explains, "chances are it will still be delicious!"